April 21

**Just a warning, this post is FULL of SPOILERS about the Mass Effect trilogy so if you haven’t played the games and want to, DO NOT CONTINUE READING!**

I have done a few posts about video games already, about Bioshock, Dead Rising and others, and here is yet another post about video games. It may seem a bit odd that I’m pointing this out but for me it’s actually quite surprising! Before about 2010, I hadn’t played any video games since about 2001. When I was little I used to play Rayman, old Spyro games and Klonoa and sometimes I play them even now because of the sentimental feelings I have about them. But other than that, for about 9 years, I didn’t play any. I had a Playstation 2 I used to watch dvd’s and that was about it. I would never have considered myself as a gamer. But then I got into a relationship with a real geek and a gamer, got an xbox, he gave me games and told me that he knew I’d love them and I never ever believed him. Everytime though I said I’d give each game a few hours before stopping because I wouldn’t like it. Most of the time however, I got sucked in and finished every single one. Now, I have played so many (and some of them multiple times) that I think it would be a total lie to say I’m not a gamer!

But the Mass Effect trilogy has done more than just turn me into a gamer. It has made me like science-fiction just a little! Until Mass Effect I have never liked sci-fi. Perhaps it was because when I was little my dad would put Star Trek on the TV for about 3 hours every weekend and I fucking hated it! I’m sorry to any trekkies out there, but I couldn’t stand this show. Even as a little girl, I thought the aliens looked ridiculous, so ridiculous in fact I couldn’t bear to watch it. This experience has tainted my whole perception of sci-fi programmes, movies or games that I’ve never given any of them a chance. So when my boyfriend told me to give Mass Effect a go because I’d love it, I really wasn’t impatient to get started as I was sure I was going to hate it. On top of that, I’m not really a fan of fighting/shooting games. Call of Duty and things like don’t interest me either, so when he told me that there was fighting in it I was even more put off. So can you imagine my reaction when the first mission in the game is on Eden Prime with a shit load of fighting! And then he told me it was an RPG. It’s terrible, but I honestly used to think that people who liked RPG’s were people with no lives who were trying to live through a video game, taking it so seriously that they believe they really are the character they are portraying. And it’s true! I really AM Commander Shepard and I will save this galaxy from the reapers!! Haha! Ok, not really. And I was wrong about thinking that too. In fact, I have more respect for the sci-fi genre now, love RPG’s, and am more happy to try games with fighting in (as long as there’s a good story!) Bioware is the reason I now love RPG’s and it’s all thanks to the incredible Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect crew

Mass Effect crew

So where to start with why I love these games? Perhaps the story. The story in the Mass Effect trilogy is breathtaking! It’s so incredible, I have read so many books with stories that cannot compare to the story in Mass Effect. To write it all would take forever and I don’t want to bore those that have played the games with a novel long plot description so I’ll just summarize. The main enemy through all three games are the Reapers; a race of sentient, deadly machines who appear every 50,000 years to kill all organics, synthetics, everything and everyone so the galaxy starts again from scratch. Their reason being that history shows that organics will always create machines that will eventually turn on their creators and wipe out all organic life. The Reapers were created to prevent all organic life from being wiped out for good. After everything and everyone has been wiped out by the Reapers, new organic species are able to evolve until they also reach the apex of their evolution when the Reapers will appear yet again and do the same thing. So basically the Reaper machines wipe us out so other machines can’t. Yes, at face value this does sound ridiculous! It is a never-ending cycle……… until now perhaps? The year in the first Mass Effect is 2183 and it seems that the Reapers are ready to wipe out humanity and every other race too.

In the first Mass Effect game, we gradually learn about the Reapers via beacons, Liara T’soni, a squad member we recruit along the way and through Vigil, a prothean hologram found on the planet Ilos. Our main enemy however is Saren, a rogue Turian spectre who is working for the Reapers. Saren’s wish for organics is that they become part synthetic as he believes that this would be the pinnacle of human evolution. He is also working with the Geth, a race of machines responsible for pushing the Quarians out of their home system. Unfortunately, Saren has been indoctrinated by the Reapers and is under their control. Our main mission in this game is to put a stop to Saren and stop him from allowing the Reapers to access the secret Mass relay on the citadel and wipe everyone out.

The second game begins just weeks after the first ended, with Shepard dying after the Normandy is attacked. Her body is acquired by Cerberus and after 2 years of rebuilding her she is brought back to life only now she is partly synthetic. In this game, our enemy is the Collectors: An organic race who live beyond the Omega 4 relay (a place where no ship that went there has ever come back!) who are responsible for a number of missing human colonies as they are working for the Reapers. In this game it is important to build your squad, gain their loyalty and hopefully survive a very stressful suicide mission!

And finally, in the third game, the Reapers have arrived and are wiping out all organics. In this game our role is to unite as many organic races (and even the Geth!) as possible in order to try and save the galaxy before it is too late. Many difficult decisions are made in this game and it is possibly to saddest of the three.

And that is the story in a nutshell. But it really doesn’t do it justice as there is so much more to it than that what with all the side missions in the games and introduction of other important races. We are introduced to Cerberus in the first game. A pro-human black ops group who have done awful things that we see first hand and who we end up working with in the second game which causes friction with previous squad members. We have the Rachni we are introduced to in the first game also. An organic race supposedly extinct which we encounter on Noveria. Here, we have the choice to kill the Rachni queen and get rid of the species once and for all, or show mercy and let her free to live a peaceful life, teaching her children about peace and forgiveness.

The backstory of Mass Effect is also huge, with the history of each species going back thousands of years including all the wars, the creation of the council and everything inbetween. I honestly couldn’t write it all, but that isn’t what this post is about anyway. What I want to say is that the story is so in depth and so epic, there is not one boring moment in the game. You are gripped from start to finish. I have never experienced anything like this from a game before. There is always something happening and always something to learn and the responsibility you have, of saving the galaxy, is huge. Like I said, it is epic. It is truly a masterpiece. Such a masterpiece, I don’t think I will ever forget it.

Another reason why the Mass Effect trilogy is one of the best games ever made: the characters. Never before in all my life have I cared so much for a bunch a pixels! Throughout all three games you have with you an amazing squad made up of people of different races and different personalities. Bioware makes it so you get to know them. And you get to know them so well you feel like they are your friends and you care about them so much. The characters are a big part also of what makes Mass Effect such a masterpiece. There I was happily playing the first game when out of the blue I am confronted with a horrible choice: I only have time to save one person. Ashley or Kaidan. And the one I don’t save isn’t going to make it. When this happened my jaw dropped and I wanted to cry. I liked them both and this decision seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn’t want to lose either. So I left the game on at this point and thought about it. I made and ate my dinner still thinking about it and then I realised I couldn’t avoid it just by looking at the screen and making myself ill so I chose to save Ashley. And if that wasn’t horrible enough, I then had to listen to Kaidan try and stop me feeling bad by telling me he regrets nothing and then to rub further salt on the wound I had to watch him injured, trying to hold off the Geth, before dying. No game before has ever made me feel guilty and so horrible that I’ve had to turn the game off because I’m too sad only for me to spend the rest of the evening feeling rotten.

Mass Effect crew 2

Mass Effect crew 2

This isn’t the only time I felt awful playing the Mass Effect games and I have even cried more than once. In Mass Effect 2, luckily in my game, no one died in the suicide mission. But I have never felt so stressed in a game in my whole life! I loved my entire squad! I didn’t want anyone to die and I was so scared through the whole thing that someone just might. When Tali was in the vents and she told me that it was getting too hot in there for her I fucking ran to the thing to help her taking bullets on the way! I think if anyone had died I would have had to reload and do it again because I would have been too sad to continue like that.

But Mass Effect 3 is definitely the saddest of the trilogy. I cried at least 4 times during this game. The first time was when I thought Grunt had died. Grunt’s survival depends on if you completed his loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, which I did, but Bioware obviously wanted to scare the shit out of us players. When Grunt said he was going to stay behind with the Rachni to keep them off me so I could escape, I screamed ‘NOOO!’ And Shepard walked away to get on the Normandy and I cried. I cried so much until all of a sudden Grunt appeared, cover in blood and alive, and we got him safely on the Normandy. Then, I wanted to scream with happiness and smack Bioware in the face for making me sad like that!

Then there was Thane. Thane dies peacefully in the hospital on the citadel with both his son and Shepard there and it is so heartbreakingly sad. After being stabbed by Kai Leng we all knew he wasn’t going to last much longer but when he finally went I really cried and had to stop playing for the day.The scene where you recite the prayer with his son was hard to watch.

Mass-Effect

At this point I thought that the sadness was over for the game maybe. Sadly not! I decided to tell Wrex about how the salarian dalatrass had tried to convince me not to allow the cure for the genophage to happen by not telling Wrex or Mordin that the salarians had sabotaged the shroud. Yeah, fuck you salarian dalatrass!! Foolishly, I thought that it was all going to turn out well with everyone coming back happy about curing the genophage! But no. Mordin had to sacrifice himself in order to release the cure and I had to watch him die and I cried YET AGAIN! Even thinking about it makes me sad!

Here, I thought that SURELY that’s it now! It can’t get fucking worse than that! I was wrong. I allowed Legion to transfer the reaper upgrades to the Geth AND got the Quarians to stand down. For the first time ever, there was peace between the Geth and the Quarians. But then Legion tells me that what he has done isn’t sufficient and he will have to disperse into the Geth consensus. The worst moment is that just before Legion “dies”, he finally becomes a true individual, referring to himself as “I”. Yet again, I cried. I think by this point my face and eyes were completely swollen and I had a nasty headache. Fucking Bioware! Killing everyone I love in the game.

Relationships are also an option in Mass Effect. Having a romance is one of the best things in the Mass Effect trilogy. It makes you feel less alone in the game. When everything is going to shit, as it often is in Mass Effect, you have someone by your side you can rely on. In the few times I have played Mass Effect I have romanced different people each time to get a different story each time. But, just like in real life, your actions have consquences. I romanced Kaidan only for him to be shitty with me in Mass Effect 2 and send me a shitty email saying that maybe one day we can be together but not now. I take that to mean it’s over so I fall into the arms of everyone’s favourite calibrating Turian, Garrus! Everything’s going great there until Mass Effect 3 when Kaidan calls me out on this and basically says I cheated. Um, NO! And then later he tells me he loves me and do we want to give it another go to which I have to cruelly tell him that I don’t and watch how sad he is. Ouch!

Both the in-depth relationships you can have and how Bioware makes me care so much for the characters that when they die I’m devastated are just 2 other reasons why the Mass Effect trilogy is a masterpiece. But more than that, I’d say it’s art. I’ve never read a book or watched a film that has made me invest in it so much and feel so many emotions that when people die I am genuinely sad. And, as I said, I am someone who hated sci-fi, didn’t like the sound of RPG’s and was not a gamer. So these games have changed my entire attitude to gaming. They’re beautiful.

mass-effect-lol

And talking about RPG’s, this is also one of the incredible things about the Mass Effect trilogy. Everytime you talk to someone, you can choose to be mean or nice, help them or not help them and, in the case of Mass Effect 2 and 3 with the paragon/ renegade interrupt button, headbutt a Krogan, or not headbutt a Krogan! How you are with others affects how other people or races feel about you, or humans in general. I tried to play answering how I would if it were really happening and ended up on the paragon path as I find it hard to be mean! On top of that, you can choose to get more of your own way with people by either charming them or intimidating them. Your choice of actions also has consequences and sometimes you have to make very difficult decisions. Do you save Ashley or Kaidan? Save the council or not? Will everyone survive the suicide mission? Will you release the genophage cure on Tuchanka? And there are so many more decisions like this. And as I said, whatever you decide, there will be consequences. But this is why the Mass Effect trilogy is so amazing.

And just a little point! As a girl what I love is how you are able to play as a female version of Commander Shepard. I understand that there are games out there that appeal more to men so it’s fine by me that the character you play in these games is a man. But there are girls out there like me that enjoy playing games like Mass Effect and it’s nice to see that we have the option to be a woman in the game. Especially in Mass Effect where relationships are important and you can romance other characters. So a big thanks to Bioware for that!

Of course, that is not to say there isn’t any bad things about the trilogy. I love the first Mass Effect game. I couldn’t say if it is my favourite as I love all 3 games for different reasons, yet for me I find it hard to find a negative point against the first game. I love going out on the Mako and the main missions on Noveria and Virmire and the rest. I just love it. But that’s just me. In the second game I much preferred the weapon system but I genuinely missed driving around on the Mako! Also, the Citadel in the second game was extremely disppointing. And in the third game I yet again missed the Mako but the worst thing for me in this game was the journal system. Missions would appear in there telling me to do something without telling me which system or planet it was on. Also, I would try and do a mission only to not be able to find the system where the mission was located and after looking it up on google in frustration I find out it’s because I can’t do this mission until I’ve finished some other main mission! Also, there were missions that had to be done before you went on the next main mission or you would be unable to do them. Of course there is no warning about this. So that pissed me off a bit. Also, yet again the citadel was, for me at least, not as good as in the first game. But the story in third game is so great it redeems itself there I think.

The main negative point however for most people has been the end. Both the original end and even the extended cut version. Most fans of the Mass Effect trilogy, including myself, were upset by the endings given which were all pretty much the same. You go through all these games making all these choices and the makers of the game even promised that the endings would reflect all the choices in the game and that it wouldn’t be an A, B or C choice end. What it ended up being was an A, B or C choice end! And the only real difference between them? The colour of the explosions! You really feel shafted after spending all that time thinking hard about your choices only for it really to make no difference.  Before the extended cut, the choices are basically destroy the Reapers, die, mass relays are destroyed and everyone will clearly die. Control the Reapers, die in order to do this, but everyone will clearly die as well as all the fleets are stuck in one destroyed system which will run out of food as all mass relays are destroyed. Or, you can pick the synthesis option, die in order to do this and everyone will clearly die again as the mass relays are yet again destroyed. So when you look at it like that, does it really fucking matter which one you choose? You might as well just play eenie meenie with it and see what you end up with.

with-me3-were-lotro

Also, there was the annoying fact that Shepard can’t question the annoying god-child on the crap it’s saying. In fact, Shepard all of sudden becomes thick and naive and just believes everything it tells her. It tells her that machines can never live in harmony with organics which I KNOW is a lie as just a few hours ago I made peace between the Geth and the Quarians with the Geth working hard to help the Quarians settle on their homeworld as quick as possible. But let’s just forget that because otherwise this god-child would be wrong and Shepard seems unable to comprehend that! At least in the extended cut they improved this.

Let’s not also forget the reason the god-child gives us for what is happening which doesn’t seem to make much sense! I think this famous picture sums this up really!

me3yodawgjungpiece

Again though, this issue is improved on in the extended cut.

But even with the extended cut, it isn’t great. If we have a high enough war asset Shepard survives as we see her breathe under some rubble. Good. We see more pictures and more of an explanation of what happened afterwards. Great. The options remained the same though. No different choices. We were able to learn more about the Reapers and their creators which was interesting and an extra sad ending was added where if we shoot the god-child or refuse to choose between the options he gives us and fight until the end he just says ‘so be it’, fucks off and next thing we see is a hologram of Liara warning the next load of species about the Reapers. Meaning we all die. Meaning that everything we did actually meant FUCK ALL because we were never good enough to defeat them anyway. We don’t even get a clip of everyone fighting to the end before losing. If we had seen that, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so annoyed about this ending as I could seen how much everyone fought and tried their best. But no, just Liara warning the next load or poor aliens of what’s to come. End of. Fuck you too Bioware.

Not only that, but for me the only way they could have made the ending good with the extended cut was to either go with the indoctrination theory or change the whole thing altogether. I think everyone who’s played Mass Effect knows about the indoctrination theory so I don’t need to explain it all, but I genuinely think if they had taken this route it would have been the greatest end to a game in gaming history! There are so many clues that the Reapers are trying to indoctrinate us throughout the third game. The ‘oily shadows’ we see in our creepy dreams which is exactly how the Rachni queen described their indoctrination in the first Mass Effect. The fight between Anderson and the Illusive Man, where if we allow him to kill Anderson it’s game over. Why? People have died throughout the games but it didn’t mean we failed the mission. If Anderson is the good in us then if we let the evil, the Illusive Man, kill him then we have been fully indoctrinated. Even the options at the end hint to the indoctrination theory. Saren wanted Synthesis and he was indoctrinated. The Illusive Man wanted control and he was indoctrinated. In the clip the god-child shows us of our final options in dealing with the Reapers we see Anderson destroying the Reapers and the Illusive Man controlling them. Anderson was never indoctrinated which makes me believe that this is the ending you are supposed to choose. The right ending. The ending where we win. The Reapers couldn’t succeed to indoctrinate Shepard so she got rid of them once and for all! Plus, this is the only ending where Shepard can survive. But sadly the indoctrination theory wasn’t used.

So, if it’s not the indoctrination theory I would prefer they had changed the end completely for a few reasons. First of all, there’s no real happy ending. Even the one where Shepard lives isn’t great as everyone else thinks we’re dead (except our love interest perhaps) so there’s no real closure. I don’t need a massive dialogue between Shepard and Garrus about how much they love each other before going off to make Turian/Human babies but perhaps a little bit of closure there would have been nice! Even if it was just seeing Shepard walking towards him from a distance. I spent so much time playing as Shepard and making choices as I really would that she is in some way a part of me. You spend all that time creating and fostering relationships in these games with your squad so a little closure here would have been nice. Not that they all think I’m dead and I’m seperated from them and that’s it! But I guess that can’t happen as Joker ran away out of the system so now I’ll never see them again as all the mass relays are broken. So Shepard, enjoy your lonely life!

Not only that, but the whole idea of the ending pissed me off. If we don’t choose any of the god-child’s options and tell him to stick them where the sun don’t shine, we all lose. And as I said, it wouldn’t have been so bad had we seen a battle before the end. We don’t even get this courtesy so it was all a bit of an anti-climax. But this could even have been the perfect little secret happy ending! Most people might choose one of the the god-child’s options and have the pretty depressing endings he gives us to be safe. Those brave enough to tell him to get stuffed could perhaps watch the long and difficult victory of the galaxy and perhaps see them begin to rebuild in their home worlds  But this would have been too nice I guess. So we’re left with three endings he gives us. And this annoys me. Because really, with everything I’ve done, like building a squad, saving the council, and all the rest was all really a fucking waste of time. I can only destroy the Reapers because the god-child is willing to let me. Or perhaps it all wasn’t a complete waste of time as it made the god-child notice us and be willing to give our species the options that no others had. But even so, we now know that if we don’t choose his options we can’t win so the only reason we can win is because we are allowed to. How anti-climatic can an ending be? When I played Mass Effect 3 I was expecting the mother of all battles. Instead, at the most important part I don’t fight. I don’t do anything. I feel like it’s a real kick in the teeth. Shepard is supposed to be THE savior of the galaxy. All species are fighting together, even the Geth in my game. It’s epic. And then I find out we won, just because he let us. Not because we ever stood a chance. In fact, the more I think about it the more I prefer the ending where everyone’s just fucking dead because it’s not a victory if the only reason you won is because your opponent let you. It’s a cheat.

My exact reaction!

My exact reaction!

I get that some people out there actually liked the ending and, unlike most people, I’m not going to say these people are wrong because of this and that and blah blah blah. Everyone has their own experiences and opinions and that’s a good thing! The world would be a boring place if everyone thought the same thing. But I just feel like there should have been at least 1 good ending somewhere depending on some choices you make or something. Perhaps it’s unrealistic but I’m not saying all endings should be happy. Just one. Because for me, it’s not like a film where I’m just a spectator. If the good guy dies in a film, I’m sad. It sucks. But I’m not as invested in it as I am when I play a game like Mass Effect. In Mass Effect, you are involved in it. We’re all Shepard. It’s natural therefore to want Shepard to have at least some chance of happiness.

For the ending, perhaps I’ve been a bit harsh about Bioware. I mean, we all know that EA are the real culprits here, rushing Bioware to finish so they can get our money sooner rather than later. I don’t think EA really give a shit what the rest of us think as long their pockets are full of our money. So yeah, I guess most of the blame lies with them. But still, Bioware could have done a better job in the extended cut. This missed opportunity to make things right will always make me a bit sad.

EA in a nutshell

EA in a nutshell

I know this last bit has been a bit harsh towards the Mass Effect trilogy. Almost like I completely changed my tune in fact! But I wanted to be honest and as much as I love Mass Effect, I had to talk about the things I didn’t like, that annoyed me or that just plain disappointed me. But despite all this I still believe what I said in the first half of this post. I really think that the Mass Effect games are the best games ever. I really believe that all 3 of them are a masterpiece. They’re art. And nothing is perfect, but despite their flaws I love them and will continue to play them over and over again……. until the Reapers wipe us all out at least.

And in mind, my Shepard will be in a bar with Garrus talking about adopting that Krogan baby :-)